For Better, For Worse

August 19, 2009 at 9:20 pm (books) (, , , , , , , , , )

Dear Miss Heber2Since January, when I came across advance information on Hazel Jones’ forthcoming book Jane Austen & Marriage, I’ve awaited its July release. For a fuller ‘review’ of it, please see Jane Austen In Vermont’s blog. Here, I merely want to point up the amount of information Jones has plucked from letters in the SMITH family! Not only does Eliza Chute (née Smith) and her mother Sarah come into the discussion of courting and matrimony, so does Eliza’s sister Maria (who marries the heir to the Earl of Northampton; her husband later becomes the first Marquess). James Austen — Jane’s eldest brother and father of James-Edward Austen (Emma’s husband) — is here also, with both of his wives. And source materials bring old friends like Miss Heber (pictured at left) and new friends like Dorothea Herbert (a book I am currently reading, with much enjoyment).

ja_and_marriage_coverJones’ chapter on “The Power of Refusal” (chapter 2) put a smile on my face: here she mentions that some suitors proposed in person — while others wrote letters or used an intermediary. Why the smile? The Rev. Richard Seymour, totally unsure of his reception (according to his own diaries), sent his elder brother John (another man of the cloth) to sound out Mrs Smith – who then sounded out daughter Fanny; it was good news from both. And wasn’t Richard happy!

The map of “Jane Austen’s Hampshire” (in B&W in the book, but reproduced in color on the back cover of the dust jacket) shows just how close The Vyne was situated to such Austen locales as Manydown House, Deane, Steventon, Chawton and Basingstoke’s Assembly Rooms.

This is a highly recommended read for anyone interested in Austen or her novels; the use of primary materials written by acquaintances, relations and autobiographers will appeal to historians researching early nineteenth-century mores in middle class England. Anyone interested in my research will enjoy the peeks into the lives of the few Smith-Gosling relatives.

Also worth a look – the author’s website, which includes information on the Austen courses she offers.

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